Our journey: how we embraced this lifestyle.

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

For the first post, I want to provide an introduction and some background information on our (my wife Nicole & my) journey, where we started, where we’ve been and our goals going forward. First and foremost, everyone starts somewhere. Whether or not you currently follow a budget, track spending, or have any knowledge whatsoever pertaining to being fiscally responsible is completely okay! It’s a journey and a process. I’m continually learning more and more everyday and new ways/things to implement to become more financially intelligent. Baby steps.

Nicole and I met in 2011 in Kalamazoo, Michigan through some mutual friends in the running community. At that point in our lives, Nicole was finishing up her last few semesters in her undergraduate program at Western Michigan University. I started my Master’s later in that year. After receiving a bachelor’s degree that provided me what I felt minimal options for employment opportunities (hey, you live & you learn), I chose to go back for my Master’s Degree. Although, now days I continue to bounce back and forth as to whether or not it was worth it (I think it was all things considered); Nicole and I racked up a significant amount of Student Loan Debt between the two of us. I think I speak for both of us when I say this was our #1 Biggest Money Mistake. But again, that’s okay. You live and you learn and it makes you stronger going forward.

Our next steps involved growing in our careers. Nicole received a good Engineering job out of college and we moved to Jackson, Michigan. There was one stipulation, I insisted we move to our dream place to live in a year. Neither one of us wanted to move to Jackson, but it was a stepping stone. Once we got settled in, I obtained a position as a Credit Analyst at a local bank and started dipping my toes into finance.

Jackson allowed us to break away from where we had both lived for several years throughout college and start a new and fresh journey. We were committed to our goal of leaving by year-end though, so we took a two week summer vacation. This was probably one of the most pivotal decisions of our lives. We were torn between two destinations: California and Colorado. We spent 6 days in each location. When all was said and done, we chose Colorado. It was more affordable, less crowded and provided what we needed most: the great outdoors and unlimited opportunities for adventure.

December 28th, we packed a U-Haul to the brim, with one car towed behind and the other followed with the pets, heading westward. We were excited for the future and a new journey, with new challenges. We started out renting a two bedroom condo near Green Mountain just west of Denver. This location provided trails we needed right out of our back door and was near I-70 leading into the mountains. We enjoyed our first two years in Colorado. We didn’t budget and spent money freely. Eventually, we realized we wanted to buy a house and that’s probably when we first started getting somewhat responsible with money. We started “saving”. This allowed us to buy our first house.

Along the way, we always tried to better our careers, increase our income, etc. Still, we weren’t there yet. It wasn’t really until this year (2018), that it really clicked. I always try to set New Year’s Resolutions and at least stick to some of them. One of them I was passionate about, was keeping a budget. I knew if I started tracking spending, I would be more conscious of buying decisions. I downloaded an app on my phone called “Goodbudget”. There are dozens, but I like this one because it is free. You can personalize it and put down categories to track spending. I’ll elaborate on this in a separate blog post soon!

Day by day, week by week and month by month I tracked every single purchase. Grocery store visit, tracked. Stop at the gas station, tracked. Mortgage, Cell phone, Miscellaneous expenses. You get the idea. Every purchase, tracked. This was huge. As I continued to do this, I became more and more intrigued with ways we could save money. Although, we didn’t hit the budget goal on each category, each time, it allowed me to see what was coming in and what was coming out. For example: summer months where we took more vacations, our miscellaneous expenses were certainly over our budgeted amount. Other months however, they were less. As time went on, I started to see where we could close gaps. I started questioning myself, “how can I increase income”? and “how can I decrease expenses”? That’s my goal now. That’s our goal. I ask “do I need it” before I buy something and “is it necessary”?

In the last several months, we’ve really started to up our game. We’re like budget Nazi’s now, going to the extreme. Here are a few of our go to tricks to increase income/minimize expenses: investing, refinancing high interest debt (like student loans for example), utilizing credit cards with 6% cash back for groceries, 3% cash back on gas, 2% reward card for all other purchases, house hacking, paying your bills as late as possible (before they are due), side hustles (additional income streams), keep heat low (63 degrees in the cold months), utilizing apps when going to restaurants (free items, discounts, etc.), buying things on sale (Lowe’s for example, we always use a 10% or more coupon when making purchases, this really pays off when buying a washer and dryer for example (which we did)) and not buying new cars.

I’ll take a deeper dive into the above topics, but wanted to provide some surface level info to start. I hope this is a good beginning point! Our next post will be a deep dive into “Budgeting”. Cheers to frugality!

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